Session organiser/chair: The architecture of coal and other energies

Gary Boyd (Editor), Denis Linehan (Editor)

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOther contribution to conferencepeer-review


Coal ignited the industrial revolution. An organic sedimentary rock that energized the globe, transforming cities, landscapes and societies for generations, the importance of ‘King Coal’ to the development and consolidation of modernity has been well-recognised. And yet, as a critical factor in the production of modern architecture, coal—as well as other forms of energy—has been mostly overlooked.

From Appalachia to Lanarkshire, from the pits of northern France, Belgium and the Ruhr valley, to the monumental opencast excavations of Russia, China, Africa and Australia, mining operations have altered the immediate social and physical landscapes of coal-rich areas. But in contrast to its own underground conditions of production, the winning of coal, especially in the twentieth-century, has produced conspicuously enlightened and humane approaches to architecture and urbanism. In the twentieth century, educational buildings, holiday camps, hospitals, swimming pools, convalescent homes and housing prevailed alongside model collieries in mining settlements and areas connected to them. In 1930s Britain, pit head baths—funded by a levy on each ton produced—were often built in the International Style. Many won praise for architectural merit, appearing in Nicholas Pevsner’s guides to the buildings of England alongside cathedrals, village manors and Masonic halls as testimonies to the public good.

The deep relationships between coal and modernity, and the expressions of architecture it has articulated, in the collieries from which it was hewn, the landscape and towns it shaped, and the power stations and other infrastructure where it was used, offer innumerable opportunities to explore how coal produced architectures which embodied and expressed both social and technological conditions. While proposals on coal are preferred, we also welcome papers that interrogate the complexity, heterogeneity and hybridity of other forms of energy production and how these have also interceded into architectural form at a range of scales.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 07 Jul 2017


  • architecture
  • coal
  • industry
  • production
  • culture


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